The Alliance

What makes you YOU? Is it a single thing? or an alliance of upwards of 30 trillion things working together? According to an article in the April 2021 issue of Scientific American:

The human body replaces its own cells regularly. Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, have finally pinned down the speed and extent of this “turnover.” About a third of our body mass is fluid outside of our cells, such as plasma, plus solids, such as the calcium scaffolding of bones. The remaining two thirds is made up of roughly 30 trillion human cells. About 72 percent of those, by mass, are fat and muscle, which last an average of 12 to 50 years, respectively. But we have far more, tiny cells in our blood, which live only three to 120 days, and lining our gut, which typically live less than a week. Those two groups therefore make up the giant majority of the turnover. About 330 billion cells are replaced daily, equivalent to about 1 percent of all our cells. In 80 to 100 days, 30 trillion will have replenished—the equivalent of a new you.

In a strange way, every human being, every animal, every plant is an alliance of micro particles. In my lifetime, I have given birth to and sloughed off untold trillions of tiny pieces of me. Yet I still see myself as a unified being with certain likes and dislikes, certain patterns of thought.

When it comes time for me to die, it’s like Better.Com firing 900 employees on a Zoom call. Except some 30 trillion parts of me would be abruptly cashiered—without benefit of unemployment compensation. I would like to think that my mental processes would continue somehow, but that’s getting into highly disputed territory.

So far my alliance has held together pretty well. The whole coronavirus situation has been like an invasive plant or insect species. Undoubtedly, I have ingested perhaps thousands, perhaps even millions of Covid-19 viruses, but never enough to disturb the majority population of the alliance, which, by the way, itself includes billions of non-threatening viruses of various sorts.

When you look at yourself as an agglomeration of tiny living things, it makes you feel humble. And it makes you laugh at a lot of the things that make people worry.

I feel good about myself because, as of now anyway, my 30 trillion parts are a kind of parliamentary democracy in which all the components still work together, peacefully for the most part.

Acedia

If the term is unfamiliar to you, you can substitute the word boredom for it. When I first came to Southern California st the age of twenty-one, I was frequently bored. For one thing, I didn’t drive until a couple decades later. I didn’t even have a television set. I certainly didn’t have a smart phone, as they were not invented yet—for which I am eternally grateful.

If the coronavirus quarantine were to happen in the late 1960s, I would have been in deep trouble. I would have been all alone and sunk deep into acedia, not to mention depression. As it turned out, in 2020 I had a three-part solution to the quarantine:

  1. Do a ton of reading, say something around 15-16 books a month.
  2. View a lot of classic films, mostly on Turner Classic Movies (TCM).
  3. Expand my cooking skills, including more complicated Hungarian dishes.

As a result, the last two years have not been a waste for me. My only regret was that, since the quarantine was global, I could not travel without some risk.

For me, travel is an opportunity for sustained research, including books about my destination and some exposure to the films and music. Not to worry, I am reading at least two travel books a month for when the world opens up to safe travel.

A Hyphenated American

Although I was born in the United States, I prefer to think of myself as a hyphenated American, specifically a Hungarian-American. My native language is Magyar (Hungarian). I did not speak any amount of English until I was six or seven years old. Something happens when you grow up as a bi-lingual person: You find yourself not quite so committed to the land of your birth.

Let me be more direct: I find myself intensely disliking the political and religious beliefs of approximately half of our population, such as the young idiots in the above photo. At present, I am not likely to fly on any American air carriers because most of their passengers are Americans, and I don’t want to be involved in any violence in the air because some yahoo refuses to wear a mask as required by law. I feel safer on a foreign carrier.

When some stranger addresses me in public, I invariably reply to them in Hungarian. The last instance was on a commuter train on which two African-Americans were arguing about Covid-19, and one of them solicited my opinion. I politely told them, in Magyar, that I didn’t (really: wouldn’t) speak their language.

I typically do not celebrate national holidays because I find them more productive of stress than of enjoyment, particularly Christmas, which has evolved into some sort of national potlatch ritual.

Perhaps these responses of mine are the result of a growing lack of faith in my fellow Americans. Particularly white males, though the Republican Party has given us some really monstrous travesties of women.

Does that mean I am withdrawing in any way? Not really. I vote in every election. And I try to remain close to my friends. I’ll stick to being a Hungarian-American, even though the American side of things is going to hell in a hand basket.

Pharaonic Corporations

It used to be that American corporations encouraged their customers to call them. But that was way back when. Now, with automated attendant services, the corporations let you talk to their computer—but only if you want to talk about the things about which they want you to talk. And nine times out of ten, those are not the things about which you are calling.

This month, I ran into a nasty bind with a medical lab. My doctor ordered from Question Diagnostics a self-administered test to be sent to me by mail. It never came, but Question Diagnostics e-mailed me to come into their office. Okay, perhaps they were going to hand it to me. So I made an appointment to go in and was asked for my doctor’s order. I told them it was sent from her office by computer. Then a look of comprehension crossed the features of the receptionist: “Oh, I see. Our supplies of that test ran out.” It was suggested that I visit other offices of the lab until I found one that had the test.

Rather than make appointments at multiple offices of the lab, I telephoned the various offices. In none of them was it possible to break through the barrier set up by the automated attendant and speak to a real live human being. Thereupon, I called customer service at the headquarters of Question Diagnostics. Would you believe that the customer service rep duplicated my steps in calling several nearby offices, only to be surprised that I couldn’t find out who had the test available? The rep mentioned that everyone was busy because of Covid-19. (I am willing to bet they’ll be using that excuse for the next five years, whatever happens with the pandemic.)

I made an appointment with the branch in Century City for 11:10 this morning using their Internet appointment software. I was met with a locked door and a sign saying they were gosh-awfully sorry, but the office was closed until November 1. Out of desperation, I returned to my local branch of the lab and, to my delight, found out that the tests had come in. The receptionist handed one to me, and I left with a smile on my face.

Although these corporate automated attendants don’t want to let me through to talk to anyone, many companies have no compunction about using a robocall program to contact me, usually about car repair warranties. Of course, why should I not hang up the moment I detect it’s a robocall?

What gets me is that a company thinks they can sell products and services to the general public without ever getting any direct feedback.

Serendipity: Cholera vs Coronavirus

Lambeth Cholera Outbreak 1848-49

The more things change, the more they remain the same. The following is from A N Wilson’s The Victorians describing the outbreak of cholera in London in the late 1840s.

It was not until the cholera microbe was isolated and identified by Koch in 1883 that [Dr John] Snow’s brilliant hunch—turning to circumstantial deduction—was proved. Snow tried—and [Edwin] Chadwick too—to spread the gospel of cleanliness as a guard against water-borne disease: the creation of good drains; lodging houses for vagrants; public washhouses; quarantine for local visitors. The coal-miners were the group that suffered more from cholera than any other—Snow urged that their work conditions be divided into four-hour shifts so that they did not need to use the coal pits as privies. In parts of London where the classes washed their hands—Belgravia—the rate of death by cholera was 28 in 10,000, compared with 186 per 10,000 in poorer districts. But, of course, such measures could not be introduced without control, and—as in the case with the Irish [potato] famine—the true laissez-faire liberal would, quite literally, prefer death to state interference. [Italics mine]

A History of Epidemics

The Covid-19 Epidemic Was Just One of Many Outbreaks

We’ve all heard about the Bubonic Plague in Medieval Europe, and even more recently in Daniel Defoe’s London (see A Journal of the Plague Year). Probably the worst were the combined plagues brought to the New World by the Spanish and the Portuguese. The native Meso-American population was to drop by more than 80% due to the combined ravages of smallpox, measles, and malaria (the latter was brought in with black slaves from Africa).

In more recent times, the British Isles have been ravaged by cholera. In his The Victorians, historian A. N. Wilson writes: “After 1832, there were to be three major cholera epidemics in Britain: 1848-9, 1853-4 and 1866. The first of these killed 53,000 in England and Wales, 8,000 in Scotland; the next killed 26,000—but 10,000 in London.”

More recently, the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 infected approximately one-third of the world’s population and killed 50 million worldwide.

It is fortunate that vaccinations to fight Covid-19 have been developed. The pity of it is that many of the poorer nations do not have the vaccine, and many of the richer nations are populated by ignorant doofuses who refuse to be vaccinated.

Uh! I’ve Been Shot!

Two Vaccinations in Two Days!

Yesterday, I got the Fluzone High-Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine at my local Walgreen’s. I would also have gotten the Covid-19 booster shot the same day, but I had to make an appointment on the Internet because their system was down. So today I returned and got a jab in my other arm.

I have a difficult time understanding anti-vaxxers with their silly reasons for not getting their shots. It is a strange time in history when people would rather be dead or kill their friends, neighbors, and acquaintances rather than submit to a simple shot. Perhaps, at bottom they’re cowards about a little pain. And in both cases for me, there was very little pain, and it was short-lived.

Booster

I’ll Be Getting the Covid-19 Booster Shot Soon

Speaking as a Libtard Sheeple (and proud of it!), I’ll be getting the Pfizer booster shot as soon as I can. It was March 15 when I got my second shot, so it has been six months plus a week or two. I figured it was best to move quickly before the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters get approved and before all the school kids start lining up.

I’ll just call around to see who has the booster and make an appointment.

Rendezvous with Cinecon

Lynch Mob Scene from The Conquest of Canaan (1921)

Labor Day Weekend. It was Cinecon time once again, where I view old and rare films looking for diamonds in the rough, Like last year, however, this year’s Cinecon meet was changed into an online event because of the Covid-19 resurgence.

I have seen the first two days’ programs and am looking forward to the next two days. So far, I have seen four features:

  • Dynamite Dan (1924), directed by H. Bruce Mitchell, a typical Horatio Alger type story involving boxing
  • Rendezvous with Annie (1946), directed by Allan Dwan, one of the cinema’s most underrated directors, here treating a Preston Sturges-like script
  • Blue Blazes Rawden (1918), directed by and starring William S. Hart, which I had seen before, set in the Pacific Northwest in a lumberjack camp
  • The Conquest of Canaan (1921), directed by Roy William Neill—who gave us the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films

A Brilliant Comedy by an Underrated Filmmaker

By far the best of the four films were The Conquest of Canaan and Rendezvous with Annie. The older film was shot on location in Asheville, NC, and dealt with a community run by a hypocritical judge and newspaper publisher that persecutes a young man and even sends a mob against him—though the young man triumphs in the end. The other film is about a corporal in WW2 London who goes AWOL for a weekend to visit his wife and impregnate her, only to be shocked when he has difficulty proving the child is his.

Allan Dwan had a long, distinguished career directing films from all the way back in 1911 and ending fifty years later in 1961. Perhaps my favorites among his films are Brewster’s Millions (1945), Silver Lode (1954), and his greatest, Slightly Scarlet (1956). To date I have seen only a small sliver of his output: 32 films from the silent and sound eras.

I won’t pretend that the films shown by Cinecon are among the greatest ever made, but they are almost all rarely seen and worthy productions. Each year, there are some great surprises in the pictures screened. For more info, click here. Be sure to check out the schedule page.

Air Rage

Flying Isn’t What It Used To Be

I remember my first passenger flight in 1959, from Cleveland to West Palm Beach via Jacksonville. It was like a special privilege. Other kids in the neighborhood expressed jealousy. It was only a prop plane, but we were to be served a special meal enroute with china and silverware.

Half a century later, I hesitate to fly any American carriers, mainly because the majority of passengers are American citizens; and I have lost my faith in my fellow Americans. I would rather take a European, Canadian, or Latin American carrier because the people on board are more likely to be better behaved.

Most of the fights that break out are related to the wearing of masks by rabid Trumpites who in their minds (such as they are) think that Covid-19 is fake news. People have to risk sickening and dying because of such asininity?

I like the idea of severe penalties for bad behavior on a flight. If I didn’t have to go through a thorough inspection at the airport, I would travel with a set of brass knuckles to help subdue violent passengers. Fortunately, the chances of needing them are minimal on Linea Aerea Nacional (LAN), Volaris, Air Canada, or Icelandair.

Unless American carriers take decisive action against passengers committing air rage, they will not get my business.